The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

‘She’s our leader:’ How Kate Martin is the heart and soul of the Iowa women’s basketball team

The sixth-year senior has been a captain for head coach Lisa Bluder’s squad since 2020.
Ayrton Breckenridge
Iowa guard Kate Martin prepares to shoot the ball during a women’s basketball game between No. 4 Iowa and Michigan at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Thursday, Feb. 15, 2024. The Hawkeyes defeated the Wolverines, 106-89. (Ayrton Breckenridge/The Daily Iowan)

In basketball, whenever a team has a star player dominating and leading it to victory night in and night out, said team also needs an “enforcer.”

For the No. 4 Iowa women’s basketball team, Caitlin Clark is undoubtedly the star, but guard Kate Martin is the enforcer who makes sure the team keeps track of its goals.

“She’s probably the best leader I’ve ever been around in my entire life,” Clark said of Martin during Iowa women’s basketball media day. “She is somebody you want on your team no matter what sport it is, male or female.”

Martin’s importance on this team goes beyond just a nickname bestowed by media. Coaches and teammates say the sixth-year senior is the lifeline of this 23-3 Iowa squad looking to make another deep run in March.

“She just cares so much [that] if Kate leaves practice for a minute or two to go to the bathroom, you can tell the mood changes,” assistant coach Jan Jensen said. “It gets so much more quiet.”

Commonly referred to as the “glue” holding the women’s team together, Martin has been the anchor of head coach Lisa Bluder’s squad since being named captain as a redshirt second-year ahead of the 2020 season. She can be seen calling huddles for Iowa during deadball situations to make sure the team is prepared and to offer veteran advice.

“She’s our captain. She’s our leader. She’s somebody we look to,” Bluder said of Martin.

Martin’s unmatched passion showed during the Hawkeyes’ most recent win against Michigan. During the second quarter, Wolverines guard Jordan Hobbs got a vicious block on Martin, sending the Iowa guard to the floor, only for Martin to quickly recover and get a chase-down block of her own on Michigan forward Alyssa Crockett.

Amid the cheering fans at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, Martin celebrated her play by flexing to the crowd and letting out a roar.

“[Plays like these] give me some emotion, and it’s exciting, and it brings up the energy,” Martin said. “My teammates get excited, the bench gets excited, and I think we need that.”

Since joining the program in the summer of 2018, Martin has seen the popularity of the Iowa women’s team — and the sport in general — explode, as she has played aside the likes of former Big Ten Players of the Year Megan Gustafson, Kathleen Doyle, and now Clark.

Martin redshirted her very first year after tearing her ACL and meniscus a number of days before arriving at the UI and played just 202 minutes. Since then, the former Edwardsville, Illinois, resident has seen her numbers and role on the team explode and has been a starter for the Hawkeyes since the 2020-21 season.

Martin played a big role in Iowa’s NCAA Tournament run last season, including scoring 16 points and grabbing six rebounds in a Sweet 16 win against No. 6 Colorado, as well as recording 13 points and six assists in the National Championship against LSU, where the Hawkeyes fell, 102-85.

Martin was unsure heading into this season whether she was going to exercise her extra COVID-19 year of eligibility but decided to return partly to pursue her master’s degree in sports and recreation management. Some meaningful convincing by Clark and some of her other teammates also played a role in this decision.

“I’m going to try to figure out a way to get her back for a seventh year because I don’t want to have to come back if she’s not here,” Clark joked.

Entering the year knowing it would be her last suiting up for the Black and Gold, Martin said she has made an effort to appreciate every opportunity this season, whether it be playing in Kinnick Stadium in front of a record 55,646 fans or selling out arenas across the country wherever Iowa plays.

Living in the moment this season has proven successful for Martin. She has recorded her career-best in points and rebounds per game over 26 games with 13.2 and 6.4, respectively, while also shooting above 50 percent from the field.

This season, Martin also became the first Iowa women’s player ever to amass 900-plus points, 500-plus rebounds, 400-plus assists, 120-plus steals, and 60-plus blocks in a career, and passed 1,000 career points on Jan. 13 in a win against Indiana.

“It’s just super cool,” Martin said. “Not everybody gets to do that in their college career, and yeah, it took me five years, but I’m still going to run with it.”

She said her experience starting in 126 games for Iowa over the past four seasons has allowed her to see the game differently this season.

Though Martin still aspires to play professionally once her collegiate career wraps up, she said she wants to get into coaching once her playing days are officially over — supported by Jensen, Martin’s aunt, who is confident her coaching career will be long and successful.

 “I want to build up strong female leaders just like coach Bluder has done to us,” Martin said. “I want to be around the game for the rest of my life.”

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About the Contributors
Cooper Worth
Cooper Worth, Pregame reporter
Cooper Worth is a Pregame Reporter for The Daily Iowan. He is a senior at the University of Iowa majoring in journalism and mass communication. He is also earning a minor in communication studies and an entrepreneurial management certificate. This is his third year at the DI, previously serving as a News Editor and as a News Reporter covering local government in Johnson County for the DI. Cooper interned for the Telegraph Herald in Dubuque, Iowa during the summer of 2023 as a general news reporter.
Ayrton Breckenridge
Ayrton Breckenridge, Managing Visuals Editor
Ayrton Breckenridge is the Managing Visuals Editor at The Daily Iowan. He is a senior at the University of Iowa majoring in journalism and cinema. This is his fourth year working for the DI.